Audio Recording Issues – It Sounds GREAT On Its Own, but... Part ThreeOur poor track. It sounds awesome, but either the rest of the mix is a bully, or it doesn't want to play fair. Before getting into a political topic of individualism versus collectivism (don't even get me started!), let's stick with a finite list of situations that we can identify as a root cause for mix injustice. It can be a timing issue. The song is not being mixed wrong, and the track is excellent, but we may be dealing with the way that the brain interprets sound signals. If we record something incredibly precise in a dry environment with very little character from the room, then we can get a recording that is amazingly present, in your face, intimate, and measuring somewhere between realistic and super-realistic. If we record something else that has some distance to it, then the complexity of the sound that bounces around in that environment will get measured in the context of the whole mix, and this may not be a good thing. One problem can be that when added, our brain says “nope, that isn't realistic.”
I don't mean to say that it is fake or bad sounding, but that the idea that a lot of sounds came from one place and another is from somewhere else that does not fit, can mean that a perfectly blended mix is not working from a completely conceptual, functional standpoint. If this is the intention, then obviously we don't need a solution. But, if you think the problem with balance is coming from two environments that do not belong together, then we may be on to something. But wait, what if there is some room presence, reverb, or liveliness that is making the new track conflict? Now what?
It may be possible to reduce only the part of the room's character that is feeding the majority of information to our brains. This can have multiple benefits, but some of it is covered in a later topic. We may be tricking our ears into re-interpreting tracks that we were happy with before, because those Frequencies that are the most obvious in carrying the room's qualities may also fluctuate in a different rate or pattern than they occur in the balance of the mix, so now our brain says “not only is it coming from a different location, but it carries information that doesn't fit into the groove of the song.”
Isolate your Frequencies with a narrow boost signal, control your output with a limiter for safety to your ears and monitors, and see if the issue is the most noticeable in the lows, mids, highs, or all of the above? Find the problem Frequencies, figure out the width of their “Q” if necessary, and reduce only the amount that reduces the complexity in the context of the mix. This means to solo the track and also check it with the mix, both while making adjustments all along. Did this help? Then, maybe the only problem was timing from the complexity of a room signal. Excellent! Did it help, but not enough? Likely so. Maybe we should see if there is something else going on here. I will cover these other possibilities in Part Four.